This latest Grist Anthology is broken into five sections, each focusing on stories and poems from one of the specific pronouns named in its title. Hence the tagline ‘experiments in viewpoint’. I’ll start by being completely honest and saying that it seems like a pretty loose theme upon which to base a collection, particularly considering that the majority of stories written come from the perspective of either I, he, or she. Even ‘you’ has become a popular choice in recent times. So not much of an experiment really, when you think about it. Only the stories and poems in the ‘it’ section felt particularly experimental in their style and tone, and, because of this, a couple of the best pieces of work were found in that section. The ambiguity of the ‘it’ in Gaia Holmes’s poem (which, incidentally, is called ‘It’), leads to a poem on which you can place your own meaning even as you’re unable to avoid a sense of dread. And Siobhan Donnelly’s ‘The Man Who Disappeared’, in which the ‘it’ is an illness, leaves you guessing for just long enough to leave you devastated by the end. It is also, arguably, the highlight of the anthology.
It would be unfair to judge all the other stories harshly just because the theme seems a little loose, though. And there are undoubtedly some fine reads throughout. In fact, the opening story, ‘The Finest Cuts’ by Liam Brown, is an excellently realised portrayal of the difficulties involved in the life of a child of divorce. ‘Lucky Dress’ by Jo Hiley is less than two pages long but packs plenty of creepiness into its tale of a falsely friendly mechanic helping out a woman with a puncture. And Max Dunbar’s ‘For My Sins’ tells the story of a sin eater and a woman who thinks she can get away with murder, all in a measured and amusing tone.
Any Cop?: It is definitely a decent collection. And there are other very good stories outside of those mentioned. As with many anthologies of this nature there are peaks and troughs, and much will depend on your own tastes, but don’t let a shaky and irrelevant theme put you off discovering a few of the highlights that can be found within.